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Xbox One – Staff impressions

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As we did previously with our trademark less-than-timely PlayStation 4 impressions, the Gaming Age staff has finally found a few minutes to toss together some casual thoughts regarding the Xbox One hardware, controller, interface and launch titles.

So, read on.

Craig


I now own all 3 next generation systems, and after playing each of them I have come to the conclusion that they all have unique and redeeming qualities. Xbox One is the latest system out of the chute and it's been exciting and fun to play around with the operating system and many of the launch games. For this brief article, I will directly compare the ONE to the PS4, since I was too busy the past few weeks to contribute anything for either system.

Both consoles only come in 1 configuration (500 GB hard drive), 1 color (black), and both require a subscription to play online multiplayer games. While neither console is ugly, I do like the sleek look of the PS4 more, plus I can stand it vertically like my PS3 and Wii U. The PS4's online subscription plan is $10 cheaper per year, plus you get a ton of value with free games every month across the PS3, PS4, and Vita. Games take less time to install on the PS4 and as such, the first time you toss in a retail disc you won't be waiting as long to get to play your shiny new game.

The operating system of both systems is an evolution of prior systems. The PS4 features a simple line where all of the games you've played show up. They are organized by what you've played lately, so games that you're regularly playing are easy to select, whereas ones you may no longer be actively using are relegated to the back of the list. Selecting a game will bring up the recent activity, which is very helpful to see all of the latest news surrounding that game. Pressing up on the analog stick will take you to another menu where you can check out trophies, friends, settings, and more. All of this is very fast and easy to find. It's a huge improvement over the PS3's cross media bar.

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Xbox One revises the 360 interface and mixes it with a bit of Windows 8. At first it might seem a bit confusing as to where everything is, but after a few minutes it becomes easy to navigate. I especially enjoy pinning my favorite games and apps for easy access. This level of customization is a great feature that is missing from the PS4's UI. In addition, since every system is bundled with Kinect, voice commands can be used to navigate very quickly. One really cool feature is that to redeem a code you can say, "Xbox – Use a code" and it will bring up the camera view. Simply hold the code a few feet away from the camera and it will redeem it. No more entering in 25 digit codes! I also love the friends' activity page, which shows all of the games your friends have been playing, along with achievements earned and even any videos they've uploaded. You can mark certain people as best friends so it's even easier to customize the feed you want to look at. I have to give a slight edge to the Xbox One for UI as it gives me greater control over where and how I peruse my content.

A big feature that I was looking forward to on the Xbox One was the TV input. In theory, the system would allow me to watch TV through the Xbox One with voice commands. Functionally, this works as advertised and I was impressed. However, my joy immediately came to a shrieking halt when I discovered that the audio was no longer in 5.1 surround sound. This is apparently being worked on and although there's a beta toggle to turn on the surround it doesn't compare to the real thing. In addition, most of my TV watching takes place via the DVR these days, and as of now the Xbox can't control DVR functionality, which is highly disappointing. Hopefully these issues can be addressed in the future; otherwise I will never use the feature.

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I'm not going to debate which console has the better controller. I actually like them both very much and to be honest it's difficult for me to decide which I prefer. Some days I lean toward the Dual Shock 4, and others I like the Xbox One. I do feel that the PS4 controller has more innovation (touch pad, light bar, integrated speaker) and I like that it has a rechargeable battery instead of AA. However, I still really like the way the Xbox One controller feels in my hands and it works great with all of the games I've played.

Speaking of games, each has a few exclusives at launch. Right now I bought my multiplatform games for the PS4 as most of my friends are on that system. I've got Forza 5, Dead Rising 3, and Ryse for the Xbox One. I've been super busy the past few weeks with other things so I've probably only played each for a couple of hours. Forza and Ryse look really nice and have some great graphical polish. Dead Rising 3 looks pretty ugly in some areas, but it does push a ton of zombies on screen, which is really cool to see. I'd say Ryse probably strikes me as being the most next-gen looking game of the bunch, but there's not a whole lot of depth to the fighting system, at least not early on. Still, it's not near as bad as some reviews have painted it. Forza 5 is very pretty and I'm having fun with it, but I've always been more a fan of the arcade racer experience. I got it on the cheap so I couldn't pass it up. I'm a bit disappointed with how much paid DLC there seems to be in the game as well. I downloaded the free Kinect Sports Jet Ski game and that's more fun than I anticipated. The Kinect controls work very well, but I'd love for them to throw in controller support as an option. I've downloaded Zoo Tycoon, Crimson Dragon, and Killer Instinct, but haven't played any of them as of this writing. I hope to in the next week or so as my time frees up.

Overall I'm very happy with PS4 and Xbox One. I don't see any huge graphical differences between them at the moment and have fun games to play on both. I will probably play my PS4 a little more as I have Assassin's Creed 4, Killzone, Need For Speed Rivals, Battlefield 4, Resogun, and Contrast. However, both have quite a few games that are worth checking out. I don't think you can go wrong with either console, as they're sure to receive great support throughout their life cycles. I'm happy we're finally moving on to more powerful machines and can't wait to see what next year brings!

Chris D.


When I first turned on the unit, the initial booting and setup took a bit longer than I expected. Once that was out of the way I began sifting through the menus. I must say that the menu system is a bit confusing, as it took me a short while to find the system settings or where I could manually enter a currency code. After some trial and error, I started getting a good rhythm with how everything works. It is not as simple as the Xbox 360 by any means, but it seems to work ok. Surprisingly, the Kinect was WAY easier to set up that the previous version on the 360. No fancy cards, or moving around your play space to get it to see you, it was just a simple set up that took less than 2 minutes. Plus, the wide angle lens allows for a smaller space for one player, so you don;t have to play from 8 feet away like the previous model. Kinect seems to see you even in the lowest light and I haven't had an issue using the motion controls. The Voice commands are fantastic, with everything working as it should. No more shouting or saying things over and over. This is how Kinect SHOULD have been on the 360.

Every game you play needs to be installed, even if it's on a disc. The digital games are ok, but having to wait to play a disc game is a bit of a pain. It's a minor gripe that I can learn to live with, but maybe an update in the future could increase the install speed as it is a bit slow. Thankfully, the game doesn't have to be completely installed to play, you can jump in at about the 60% mark.

I haven't used the TV functions yet, but I will just to see how it works. I won't be using my Xbox One for TV viewing regularly, so this is not something I am concerning myself with right now.

So far I have played Killer Instinct, Dead Rising 3 and Crimson Dragon. With KI, I expected a bit more in the way of a single player experience, but overall it is a solid fighter with a fair bit of content to fight for. Currently the roster only has 6 different characters but 2 more are coming in a few weeks bringing to total to 8 different characters to use. Online matches seem to be fluid and free of lag.

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Dead Rising 3 completely blew me away from the very beginning. Just standing on top of a broken down car staring out over a sea of 500 or so Zombies, all moving independently made me feel like I was in a hopeless situation. Everything from the combat to the smallest subtle animations is so fantastic that you just get lost in the world. I have not played any online modes yet, but I will soon.

My last game I have played is Crimson Dragon. If you have ever played Panzer Dragoon on the Sega Saturn, then you know what to expect here for the most part. I like to think of it as Panzer Dragoon with the visuals given a shot of steroids. Control is fluid and the gameplay is really great. Flying through a fantasy world never felt better.

Overall, even with the slightly confusing menus and long install times, I am really enjoying my experiences with the Xbox One. I am still discovering what this can do, but so far I can find little fault with the system. If you can find one out there, I would say pick it up and have some fun.

Brian


When the Xbox One was first announced and Microsoft showed off what their plans to integrate all of your home's entertainment needs all into one set top box, I immediately thought, I'll believe it when I see it. Then a couple months later Microsoft announced the price of $500 and I said no thank you. Of course it didn't take long for the hype bug to sink its venomous teeth deep into my gamer jugular, and soon found myself paying off my day one console in short order.

So why did I inevitably chose the Xbox One over the PS4? It's simple. I'm a home body, and I watch tons of movies, TV shows, not to mention, play video games. Now to finally have them wrapped up all in one where limiting my interaction by eliminating the input button on my TV to bounce back and forth is finally a thing of the past. If the Xbox One had the power of (with all due respect) the Wii U, I may have went the way of the PS4 for a true next generation gaming machine. Of course when I saw that developers were literally making the same games on both consoles in terms of visuals, audio, and game play, exclusives albeit the exception of course, but for a mere $100 I get the entertainment package on top of that, how could I say no? Top it off with arguably the best launch line up of both consoles and November 22nd just couldn't come soon enough.

So now that I've had the system for almost 3 weeks, did the Xbox One live up to the hype? All I can say is a resounding YES! Let's get the gaming out of the way for starters. There were 3 major launch titles that were exclusive to the lineup for the Xbox One, Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3, and Forza Motorsport 5, and all are easily showcases of what the future of gaming will look like. These all were certainly games that could not be pulled off on the current generation machines and will wow any on looker who walks on by. Toss in other spectacular honorable mentions like NBA 2K14, FIFA 14, Zoo Tycoon, Killer Instinct, Need For Speed: Rivals, and Battlefield 4, just to name a few, and you have one solid line up that just screams , "The Next Generation is HERE!"

The controller is a smaller version of the controller Xbox fans have grown to love, but a few differences such as a menu button and rumbling triggers take an already great design and now a 4th generation Dreamcast controller (admit it, the evolution is clear) and make it that much better.

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The shining star of the box is the integration of the Kinect 2.0 and what it does for the console. Sure the Kinect 2.0 on its own would in theory be the same waste of time the original Kinect was for the Xbox 360, that is if it wasn't how the video and voice controls now leap us into a Buck Rogers like 25th Century with not only motion controls (which still are sketchy at best) but now voice control that really works, and works quite well honestly. Sure if you have a room full of people or tons of background noise going on you may not get the results you want. If, on the other hand you set the Kinect up to how the sounds in your home will be for most of the time then as long as you use the Xbox's suggested commands, the result is spot on 99% of the time. Take it from a father of a 1 year old. Nothing is sweeter than getting up at 6am to change a diaper, all the while your hands are full and all you have to say is Xbox On, and your Xbox, TV, and Cable Box all turn on and ready for use. Then just say Xbox watch Disney Channel and now the one year old is too preoccupied to be annoyed by the wet diaper he sat in all night as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse now has his undivided attention. This is what I was hoping would be delivered by Microsoft, and it works quite well.

There are so many features I haven't even touched on like Gaming DVR, Skype, SNAP, and so much more, but if you want to know more, go to www.xbox.com for more details, this is an impressions piece not a review breakdown for Pete's sake. Sure there have been some hiccups with some software, some bugs need to be ironed out, and even some promised apps still to be delivered. I will even say that the Windows 8 interface works very well and looks slick, but there are things missing such as a Demos section, How much controller battery life I have left, and the biggest question mark, how much memory has my Xbox One used to date for instillation? All these things can easily be addressed in future dashboard updates, and Microsoft does listen to their fans. So in the end I applaud and thank you Microsoft by delivering on your promise as now my experience of all my favorite boob tube activities can all be enjoyed on one box, with a Blu Ray player, Netflix apps, Xbox Music and Video, and of course Next Generation Gaming. With no other gaming machine offering a MLB title other than the PS4, I will eventually have to go down that path if I'm to get my baseball fix, but to say I'm satisfied with my choice is an understatement. It has been quite a while that I've been this satisfied with a purchase of such economic proportions, but the Xbox One is a winner for my family, and I can't wait to see what the next 10 years (give or take) bring for gamers who have also joined in on the fun.

Dustin


While I'm a couple weeks late to the Xbox One party, having finally purchased a console a couple of days ago, I'm glad that I jumped on board. I honestly didn't think that I'd give the system a go until early next year, but enough positive impressions, and the ability to actually pick the system up in store, managed to sway me.

I haven't spent a great deal of time with it, and I've only really played Dead Rising 3 and Killer Instinct, but there are things about the Xbox One that I definitely enjoy. The biggest surprise in those things is the Kinect functionality, specifically the voice commands. It's not universal praise, there are still some recognition issues here and there, but I definitely find it more useful than it ever was on the 360. Being able to walk into the room, say "Xbox on!" and have it switch on not only the system but my TV too, is pretty slick.

I'm also a fan of the facial recognition / account sign-in functions. The system is used by both my wife and I, and I think any household that has multiple people using one system will love this feature as well. And again, while my time has been limited, the recognition of who steps into and out of view with Kinect has worked flawlessly so far.

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As far as games go, I've enjoyed both Dead Rising 3 and Killer Instinct. Both games look great, and Dead Rising can really impress when it comes to showing off the incredible number of zombies that can now be present at any given time. Killer Instinct looks and plays great, but I'm finding the Xbox One controller to be less than desirable when it comes to fighting games so far. The D-Pad is improved, but has this weird click when directions are pressed that I'm not fond of, making it seem a bit stiff.

Another aspect of the new Xbox One controller I don't care for is the loose battery compartment. This becomes noticeable often with Dead Rising 3, with specific prompts that require you to shake the controller, which in turn makes a whole lot of noise. It feels a little cheap in that regard, which is unfortunate considering the Xbox 360 had such a stellar controller. But outside of those two things, I doubt previous Xbox 360 owners will have trouble coming to grips with the new controller. The face buttons are great, and while I've heard some complaints about the position of the left and right bumper buttons, I adapted easily enough to their placement.

Another aspect that I enjoy about the Xbox One is the sleep function, which is the default power-off setting. When you power the system off and turn it back on, it only takes seconds to get you back to your home screen, which is remarkably quick. From a cold start it's a sluggish boot-up, slower than the PS4 definitely, but I've had no reason to do that outside of the initial set-up and patch that installed. I've also found the "Snap" feature to be pretty neat, and it will certainly be ideal for those that like to watch TV as background noise while playing games.

There are other features I haven't had the chance to toy with, like the Game DVR and Upload Studio, or Xbox Fitness, but I look forward to checking out more system functions in the coming weeks. I'd also really like to get my hands on both Forza and Ryse at some point, despite some of the negative impressions and comments I've heard on both. And of course there's Peggle 2 this week, and who isn't hyped for more Peggle?